26 September 2013

Report from the 2013 International Symposium on QFD

On September 4 - 13, 2013, the QFD enthusiasts from around the world gathered together in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the 19th International Symposium on QFD and Training. It was attended from as far as Brazil, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden, Thailand, The Netherlands, Turkey, Canada and USA.

We learned the latest case studies and research, innovative new tools and applications, as well as the international trends. The face-to-face interactions were priceless even in this digital age. We made new friends, renewed old friendships, and learned from each other, getting inspired to do things even better at work and home with the help of QFD.

If you missed this year's event, we do hope you will join us next year (see below for 2014 Calls For Papers). Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights from the 2013 events:
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Akao Prize® is awarded to individuals who have made notable contribution to the dissemination and advancement of QFD for many years on the international level. The 2013 Akao Prize® was awarded to Sixten Schockert (GERMANY) and Yoshimichi Watanabe (JAPAN).
Recipients of this year's and past Akao Prize® at 2013 ISQFD
(Dr. Akao, front center, is flanked by this year's recipients)

Best Paper - SCG Chemicals, Thailand
Best Paper Award: "Quality Function Deployment for New Product Development: Transforming Waste to Worth" By Pattarit Sahasyodhin (SCG Chemicals); Kritaya Suparnpongs, QFD Black Belt® (Siam Cement Group); Paweena Lertchanyakul, QFD Green Belt® (SCG Chemicals), THAILAND.  

Best Presentation - Tamagawa University, Japan
Best Presentation Award: "A Study of Service Quality Improvement Using the Theories of Nonverbal Communication, FMEA and QFD" By Kazushi Nagai (Tamagawa University); Tadashi Ohfuji (Tamagawa University); Masamitsu Kiuchi, Ph.D. (Josai University), JAPAN. 

photo - 2013 QFD Black Belt<sup>®</sup> Graduates
2013 QFD Black Belt® Graduates
QFD Belts® Achievement: Once again, we salute those who rose to the challenge of earning the QFD Green Belt® and QFD Black Belt® in Santa Fe. Congratulations.

Dr. & Mrs. Akao
Dr. Yoji Akao, founder of QFD, remains just as enthusiastic about learning new case studies and students as he was nearly half a century ago when he began the research that led to the development of QFD.

Native American blessing
Native American Blessing. The QFD attendees were honored to receive this special blessing, performed by the tribal governor of Picuris Pueblo, one of the Eight Northern Pueblos in the Santa Fe region.

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Join us in 2014! 

2014 QFD Call For Papers

31 August 2013

2013 International Symposium on QFD & Public QFD Courses

For anyone wanting to find out how QFD is used today in real projects, innovative new tools and current best practices, better integration with DFLS and other initiatives, and what international markets are using QFD to their advantage, here are the annual QFD events that are perfect for you:

September 4–5 : QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course

September 6–7 : The 19th International Symposium on QFD   See presentation schedule

September 8 : QFD Black Belt® UPDATE and QFD Green Belt® UPDATE

September 9–13 : QFD Black Belt® Certificate Course

Registrations for QFD courses will be accepted up to 1 day before the start of the respective courses. The Symposium accepts walk-ins. In any case, we recommend contacting the QFD Institute as soon as you decide, so as to ensure your seat, materials, and meals.

Venue: Hotel Santa Fe
All events will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA. Please see Venue details and Travel information.

This year's International Symposium will have keynote addresses by Dr. Yoji Akao (founder of QFD) and Glenn Mazur (executive director of QFDI) and case studies and research from Germany, Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, The Netherlands, and USA. See here for details.

The QFD courses include the modern QFD templates which also include the House of Quality matrix with modernized math, AHP, Customer Voice Table, Maximum Value Table, etc.

We hope you will be able to join us.

22 August 2013

An Apple a day — Use QFD to systematize Steve Jobs' design genius beyond a single individual

(image - An Apple a day keeps competitors away)
In my opinion, late Steve Jobs was a rare individual who had such an intuitive grasp of the fundamentals of QFD thinking. For example, in the April 1, 1989 interview with Inc. Magazine, he was asked by reporters Bo Burlingham and George Gendron, "Where do great products come from?"

This is what Jobs said:

"I think really great products come from melding two points of view-the technology point of view and the customer point of view. You need both.

"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new. It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we'd given customers what they said they wanted, we'd have built a computer they'd have been happy with a year after we spoke to them-not something they'd want now..."

Let me put this in QFD perspective.

We see two common flows in the way QFD is practiced: forward and reverse. Forward QFD begins with the voice of the customer which is often a mixture of "what they want," that is product performance, features, and technology. Because customers rarely know what the future may bring, their voice is typically tied to the past or present.

As Jobs points out, the product may be sufficient for the past, but insufficient at the time of launch or during its useful life. You can ask customers what they want as a starting point of a QFD analysis. The tool for this analysis is the Customer Voice table; its purpose is to translate voice of customer (VOC) into true customer needs. In this table, we explore with customers why they want something.

For example, a customer in a café may state "I need a hot cup of coffee," but what they really need is "I am cold and I want to warm up." Using Jobs logic, you could produce a cup of coffee that was too hot to drink, thus forcing the customer to wait until it cooled down. You would give them what they asked (hot), but not really meet their needs (warm up).

In modern QFD, we define a customer need as being product-independent, and that is the first step in creating great product.  Read More ...

15 August 2013

Mirror Neurons – the science behind "gemba" ?

Recent studies on the behavior of monkeys in a research lab in Parma Italy accidentally found that brain neurons that fired when a monkey picked up a peanut, also fired when a monkey watched a human pick up a peanut.

Ongoing research in these so-called "mirror neurons" in humans have discovered what might be the root-cause of empathy. When we see someone performing a task, it triggers the same neurons as if had been doing the same task ourselves.

A recent discovery has also shown that people on the "empowered" side of a relationship lose some ability to fire these mirror neurons compared to those on the "unempowered" side of the relationship.  (See the report and video at NOVA: Mirror Neurons)

For QFD practitioners, this gives strong support for the power of gemba visits. Unlike surveys and questionnaires which are passive, going to gemba to observe and even participate in activities with our customers, apparently triggers empathy in our brains that may improve how we understand our customers and how we innovate solutions to their problems. Further, this latest research suggests that if we empower the customer to lead the gemba visit, we consequently unempower ourselves, thus improving our ability to empathize.

Wow! I've been teaching "go to the gemba" for twenty years and now have an explanation for why this works so well, especially for bringing marketing and technical people together to better understand customers.

The tools we've developed, which are now core in the Blitz QFD® approach and taught in the QFD Green Belt® course are designed to capture this implicit mirroring process and make it explicit. The result has been more marketing-technical teams attending both public and in-company Blitz QFD® training.

Why not join our next course on September 4-5, 2013 in Santa Fe NM and learn how to put your mirror neurons to good use!

08 August 2013

QFD for membership organization, industrial design, workplace vitalization, high-speed rail, Turkish region

This continues a preview of the upcoming The 19th International Symposium on QFD (ISQFD) on September 6-7 in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA.

The 2-day symposium welcomes people of all levels QFD, from the beginner to the experienced, people of countries and industries. It is complimentary to the attendees of QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course and QFD Black Belt® Certificate Course  We hope you will join us!

See the previous posts:

QFD for Membership Organizations — Practicing What We Teach

(image - QFD for membership orgainization)This keynote reports an ongoing QFD initiative at the International Academy for Quality (IAQ), a membership organization founded in 1966 by Dr. Armand Feigenbaum along with European and Japanese quality experts. 
The IAQ's growing membership in developing nations means that member needs have to be periodically assessed and incorporated into future activities, beyond its original missions of facilitating an international exchange of quality expertise to promote quality throughout all nations.The keynote will discuss the QFD process being used to reassess current member needs and plan future programs, including the data from member surveys, as well as the results to date and ongoing improvements to the organization.

Keywords: Quality Function Deployment (QFD), Modern Blitz QFD®, Voice of Customers (VOC), Membership Organization

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Towards QFD-based Industrial Design

(image - QFD and Industrial Design)This paper reports how to improve web-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) through integration of the elements of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Quality Function Deployment (QFD). Customer Orientation is achieved within QFD by a systematic approach. Within industrial design, requirements of the customer are also analyzed and deployed with the power of artistic creativity and less with a systematic or qualitative approach. This paper proposes an integration of QFD and industrial design to take advantage of the strength from each method. The presentation will include a case study and a framework for QFD-based Industrial Design.

Customer-Orientation, Industrial Design, Conceptual Integration, Conceptual Map, Deisgn Concept, Product Catalogue, GERMANY

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Quality and Safety Control Method of High-speed Rail Based on QFD & FMEA

(image - QFD for China bullet trains)This academic paper from a Chinese university presents the use of 4-phase model approach and FMEA in order to address the control quality and safety issues associated with China's high-speed rail systems.
The case uses hypothetical scenario and literature sources.

Keywords: Quality and Safety, QFD, FMEA, High-speed rail, CHINA

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QFD for activating a workplace Ba—Part 2

(image - workplace)The various components of QFD draw out member's tacit knowledge through "Ba" (the workplace gemba). In order to achieve this, the "Ba" must be invigorated with changes that encourage the individuals to express and share his/her tacit knowledge. This presentation, a sequel to the author's 2012 presentation, will examine the relationship between QFD and "Ba" from the viewpoint of cognitive engineering and social-psychology, including some examples from the author's company practice.

Keywords: Knowledge Management, Ba, Job Function Deployment, Workplace, JAPAN

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A Critical Analysis of the Turkish Literature on QFD

(image - state of QFD in Turkish region)This study, based on the published resources produced between 2000 and 2012, provides a holistic picture on the current state of QFD in the Turkish region, both in private industry sectors and academic research field.
Specifically, it identifies the levels of awareness and prevalence of QFD methodology in the region, the purpose for the usage, implementation levels, difficulties, and overall analysis. With economic activities rapidly globalizing and competitive pressure mounting, this knowledge can be the competitive differentiators for the developing nations such as Turkey as they will compete more on the global stage. It also offers academic researchers a solid comprehensive reference on the state of QFD applications and studies in this economically growing region.

Keywords: Quality Function Deployment (QFD), Literature Review, TURKEY

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QFD for input device and software QA, university e-portfolio, fashion and apparel manufacturing, global markets

This continues a preview of the exciting presentations planned for the upcoming The 19th International Symposium on QFD (ISQFD) on September 6-7 in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA.

The 2-day symposium welcomes people of all levels QFD, from the beginner to the experienced, people of countries and industries. It is complimentary to the attendees of QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course and QFD Black Belt® Certificate Course  We hope you will join us!

See the previous posts:

Application of QFD to the Symptom Analysis of Input-device Software Defects

(image - input device QA)The traditional function/regression tests following the design specification do not adequately ensure software quality, due to the evaluation complexity posed by various input-device software such as USB, wireless communication device, sensor, LCD display technologies, etc. This presentation, by a worldwide leader of graphic tablets, will show a better method for evaluating and analyzing software defects by correctly assessing the symptoms of the original causes of failures and then identifying the relationships between the operations and subjects through the use of the function deployment tables and state transition tables.

Keywords: Software QA, QFD, FTA, Symptom Analysis, Test Coverage, Evaluation Deployment, JAPAN

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Improvement of University e-Portfolio System in Consideration of Students' Demands

(image - university e-portfolio system)Using a QFD approach, demand analysis and factor analysis were performed for the successful introduction of the e-Portfolio system in a public university in Japan.By analyzing the students' demands and factors of an existing software, the researchers were able to turn the e-Portfolio system software into an information infrastructure that can be fully utilized by students for their study, helping them complete their own study plan efficiently.

Quality Assurance in Higher Education, e-Portfolio, Requirement Analysis, Software Development, JAPAN

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Starting QFD for Clothing Manufacturers in Hong Kong

(image - QFD for apparel and fashion industry)Some 20 years ago, the clothing manufacturers in Hong Kong only had to deal with the sewing or knitting of the samples for fashion designers.
Today they are expected to provide technical design services as well as sample development process. The increasing degree of abstractness and the shift from quantitative to qualitative nature of technical data have created many communication problems. This paper will identify the areas in which QFD can help Hong Kong clothing manufacturers in their development and design activities, while also outlining the effective QFD approaches.

Keywords: Clothing Manufacturers, Apparel Manufacturing, QFD, Hong Kong, CHINA

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Global QFD — From Japan to the World

Since its conception in Japan in 1966, QFD continues to advance and spread across the world. In this keynote, the global history of QFD will be presented by a founder of the methodology.
(image - global QFD)
The talk will share the inaugural training and projects that Dr. Akao was personally involved in each country, such as South Korea (1981), Taiwan (1882), USA (1983), Italy (1988), and many more. Businesses with international operations may gain an unusual insight into how their overseas competitors might be using QFD in what levels and which regions to look out for in the future.

Keywords: Global QFD, History of QFD, Quality Function Deployment, Japan, USA, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy

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27 July 2013

QFD for cloud computing security, e-learning systems, service industry, FMEA, VOC codification

This continues a preview of the upcoming The 19th International Symposium on QFD (ISQFD) on September 6-7 in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA.

The 2-day symposium welcomes people of all levels QFD, from the beginner to the experienced, people of countries and industries. It is complimentary to the attendees of QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course and QFD Black Belt® Certificate Course  We hope you will join us!

See the previous posts:

QFD and Requirements Prioritization: A Survey on Security Requirements for Cloud Computing

(image - Clound Computing security)Prioritization is an essential task within QFD, and QFD is highly suitable for the development of Cloud Computing (CC) applications where non-functional requirements play a main role. Many of them are security requirements, often the main concern for CC investments. This paper introduces the usage of QFD for Cloud Computing (CC). In this research, CC security requirements were prioritized by pairwise comparison, showing that not all security requirements are equally important. With this finding, the appropriate usage of QFD for CC development will be discussed.

Keywords: QQFD, Requirements Prioritization, Security Requirements, Cloud Computing, GERMANY

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Improving a Learning Management System based on QFD and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

(photo - Service Oriented Architecture QFD for e-learning system)This paper reports how to improve web-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) through integration of the elements of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Quality Function Deployment (QFD).
The users of an LMS are typically invisible to the systems developers and administrators, However, understanding the user needs has high priority in any networked learning systems, in order to develop and implement effective virtual learning services that meet diverse expectations of the users. An example will be presented based on a Turkish platformed LMS.

Keywords: Learning Management System, Service, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), QFD (Quality Function Deployment), TURKEY

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A Study of Service Quality Improvement Using the Theories of Nonverbal Communication, FMEA and QFD

(image - customer service)Study of service industry presents unique challenges because of soft issue measurements such as quality evaluation and service quality.
With this in mind, the authors propose a quality improvement process specifically for service industry. The presentation will include a case study using non-verbal communication, FMEA, and QFD.

Keywords: Service Quality Improvement, QC story, QFD, JAPAN

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A Statistical Engineering Approach to Codifying the Voice of the Customer

(image - HOQ whats and hows)Virtually all design projects involve the collection/processing of the Voice of the Customer to develop a set of requirements to which the producer designs their process/product.Approaches to efficiently and effectively deriving those requirements involve multiple techniques from the fields of market research, quality engineering, design engineering, and inferential statistics. This paper proposes a way to create a logical flow for the Voice of the Customer processing by codifying a series of tools into a linear statistical engineering road-map, and thereby more efficiently populating the House of Quality matrix that uses the "whats" (functions) and "hows" (functional requirements) approach. The exposition is supplemented with a lucid hypothetical example.

Keywords: Voice of Customer, Function Analysis, Kano classification, Analytic Hierarchy Process, Function Requirements, Specifications, Quality Function Deployment, USA

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QFD for modular design, value creation, business development, organic products development

Here are more exciting presentations planned for the upcoming The 19th International Symposium on QFD (ISQFD) on September 6-7 in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA.

(See the previous post: QFD for public transportation, software development, eco-friendly supply chain )

The 2-day International Symposium welcomes people of all levels of QFD knowledge, all industries and countries, and it is complimentary to the attendees of QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course and QFD Black Belt® Certificate Course  We hope you will join us!

Study of Applying QFD to Modularity Strategy

(image - Modularity design)
Japanese manufactures are excellent at developing integral type products, such as cars and complicated machines that need fine tuning (e.g. semiconductor manufacturing machines). However, many products are currently shifting toward modular systems which require better architectures and modularity logic and rules. This presentation will show how to better define modular product architectures through the analytic structure of QFD, specifically how to arrange many complex issues such as customer needs, cost, technology, manufacturing feasibility, serviceability and so forth in a series of matrices so that modularity can be better simulated.

Keywords: QFD, Modularity, Modular, Integral Components, Modular Design, JAPAN

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Quality Function Deployment for New Product Development: Transforming Waste to Worth

(image - Creating Value and Worth from Waste)
This paper reports an application of QFD by the Thailand's chemical industry leader, SCG Chemicals. The company was able to develop a new eco-friendly construction material out of a chemical byproduct waste. The new product not only offers added functional value but also is boosting the customer's brand image. The presentation will report an application of QFD for this New Product Development, most challengingly in eliciting the needs from psychological elements and deploying them into design specifications, development process, souring, and other considerations for successful product roll-out.

Keywords: QFD, Psychological Characteristics, Voice of Customer, Customer Satisfaction, Product Design, Brand Image, Eco-friendly Product, THAILAND

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Top technology is not all we need for a successful business: QFD logic, methods and tools —Dutch experience.

(photo - QFD for Business Development, EU application)
This presentation will report a pilot project in The Netherlands, the utilization of QFD for business development. The talk will share the Dutch experience of the customer-centered marketing campaigns based on the Voice of the Customer (VOC) and Modern QFD techniques. This approach provided the logical, systematic, and interactive links between the commercial and technology teams in one organization. 

Keywords: Modern QFD, Business Development, Business Analysis, VOC, THE NETHERLANDS

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Application of QFD for the Development of An Organic Product: A Pilot Study

(image - QFD for Organic Products development)
This presentation will report a pilot QFD application for the development of an organic product. A conceptual model which consists of four matrices for the development of an organic fruit jelly will be presented. The main adaptation is in the first matrix to include major actors in the production supply chain. The first results indicate the feasibility of the proposal for food development. 

Keywords: Product Development, Organic Products, QFD, BRAZIL

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21 July 2013

QFD for public transportation, software development, eco-friendly supply chain

The 2013 International Symposium on QFD (ISQFD) will be held on September 6-7 in Santa Fe, New Mexico USA.

Whether you are new to QFD or have many years of experience, this ISQFD will be an excellent opportunity to find out how QFD is used today in real projects, how much the method has advanced in recent years, innovative new tools / applications / research, as well as global trends in new product development and design quality.

This and next few posts will introduce the exciting presentations that are planned for September 6–7. We hope you will join us.

PS: This 2-day symposium is complimentary to the attendees of QFD Green Belt®, QFD Black Belt®, and Update courses.
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Application of QFD within a Co-opetition Network of Public Transport Organizations
(image - public transportation)This case study reports a QFD application in German public transportation systems. Companies that provide public transportation services are competitors as well as cooperative partners. In this setting of co-opetition (competitive cooperation), QFD is being applied with the vision of offering passengers (customers) seamless transportation services. This is an ongoing research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The presentation will discuss adaptations in application methods as well as lessons learned.
Keywords: Public Transport, Co-opetition Network, Cluster Analysis, QFD Case Study

Software Development Method Based on Twin Peaks Model with QFD
(image - Twin Peaks Model)In software system development, it is important to analyze the stakeholders'  requirements and design the architecture. One proposed method for this is the twin peaks model which intertwines software requirements and architectures to achieve incremental development and speedy delivery. The researchers used QFD to clarify these relationships in hope to propose more efficient software development.
Keywords: Software Development, Requirements, Architecture Design

Modern QFD Application on a Supply Chain to Become Green
(image - Green Supply Chain)Increasing concerns for resource scarcity and global pollution beseeches us for more environmentally friendly practice in supply chain management. This study is based on the voice of customer (VoC) data collected from the aluminum accessories industry located in Izmir, Turkey. Using the Modern QFD's Maximum Value Table, the VOC were deployed into technical characteristics that are essential for the greener practices of the sector's supply chain management. This project is going to provide the academicians an insight into usability of Modern QFD and to the industry professionals the methods for extending their green activities. 
Keywords: Green Supply Chain Management, Modern QFD, Maximum Value Table, Aluminum sector

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More Presentations ...

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02 July 2013

Is it advantageous to be first or to be better?

(illustration - internet radio)Newsweek magazine recently published an article "The Myth of First-Mover Advantage" about iTune entering the Internet radio business, thus challenging the well-established Pandora head-on. The article summarized the successes and failures of companies that are first-to-market.

This questions is commonly asked by QFD practitioners:
Is it advantageous to be first or to be better?

My thoughts:

Advantage belongs to first-movers if they continuously put themselves "out of business" before a new competitor does. This requires an on-going assessment of changing customer needs and producing corresponding features. QFD can mitigate the risk of first-mover's typical "technology push" mentality by building a "market pull" approach.

Customers will churn products as they mentally perform cost-benefit analyses of alternatives. Costs include purchase price, cost to change in terms of training, support, maintenance, disposal of old product, etc. To overcome these, the benefits of the new offering either by the original First-Mover or the new competitor must be overwhelmingly substantial in solving the customer problem, enabling a customer opportunity, or enhancing the customer's image.


22 May 2013

Can ordinal scale numbers kill you?

This May 19, 2013 article in USA Today might make you nervous. According to a study of 1400 sunscreen products by the Environmental Working Group, many continue to carry SPF ratings that some experts consider misleading and potentially dangerous. The reason, the article states is that:

(photo of sunscreens, source FDA)"SPF numbers like 100 or 150 can give users a false sense of security, leading them to stay in the sun long after the lotion has stopped protecting their skin. Many consumers assume that SPF 100 is twice as effective as SPF 50, but dermatologists say the difference between the two is actually negligible. 

"Where an SPF 50 product might protect against 97% of sunburn-­causing rays, an SPF 100 product might block 98.5% of those rays. There is a popular misconception that the SPF figure relates to a certain number of hours spent in the sun. However this is incorrect, since the level of exposure varies by geography, time of day and skin complexion."

In other words, people believe (as did I until I read this), that SPF numbers were ratio scale and that 100 provided twice the protection of 50. In fact, as this article postulates, they are ordinal and SPF 100 is only 1.5% more protection than SPF 50.

This is the problem with ordinal scales. They confuse people into interpreting numbers the wrong way.

QFD experts have known this problem for many years, and in our early days (1966-1985), we didn't have an easy solution to obtaining ratio scale values from subjective judgments. In the House of Quality (HoQ), rating customer needs or competitive performance on a 1-5 ordinal scale, or enumerating relationship weights using 1,3,5 or 1,3,9 ordinal numbers are examples of ordinal scale subjective judgments. Like SPF, you cannot meaningfully add, subtract, multiply, or divide them.

The solution to the problem came to us QFD folks in 1986 when Dr. Saaty's Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) became available as a PC program, allowing us to accurately convert subjective judgments into ratio scale values. It took me a few projects to see the difference in accuracy. For example, a judgment of "4" on the ordinal scale is usually perceived to be two times a judgment of "2."  But if you convert the 1-5 to ratio using AHP, it turns out that the judgment of " 4" is 26.0% and "2" is 6.8%.  26/6.8= 3.82 meaning that the judgment of a "4" is almost four times the judgment of a "2." Imagine the impact this mistake could have on a multi-million dollar project!

So, if you are not using AHP to calculate ratio scale judgments in your QFD, switch now, before the summer sun kills you.

AHP books by Thomas Saaty, Ph.D.

28 April 2013

The joke is on us (consumers)

Take a look at this video. It is about a Google Japan project to develop a better interface for typing Japanese.

Owning to its complex writing system (several thousand Chinese characters mingled with two sets of 51 phonetic alphabets), keyboarding Japanese became feasible only in 1970s. Even today with advancements in software and AI, typing Japanese remains highly cumbersome, compared to Romance languages such as English, Spanish, French, etc.

So when Google Japan announced its intention to design a better way to type, the project sounded like a worthy effort.

Google Japan video, April 2013 (http://youtu.be/HzUDAaYMNsA)  Click "CC" for English caption.

Have you noticed the intriguing initial concept based on drum-playing? Granted, Google has always been known for quirky ideation, but many Japanese viewers thought this was an absurd, if interesting, departure from the traditional keyboard.

Alas, the complexity of the Japanese language necessitated infinite drums to be added (to accommodate thousands of characters), resulting in an inoperably massive drum assembly. Did you see that?

To solve this problem, the Google engineers did what many project teams typically do: They gathered in a meeting room to brainstorm.

Does it sound pretty normal to you, so far?

After many days of brainstorming, one day while waiting for a commuter train, an engineer had an epiphany: A split-flap input display system (the old-fashioned mechanism that flips panels to display departure/arrival information for trains, airplanes, etc.).

Did you see that?

Then comes the really eccentric part: Since people today prefer everything mobile, the Google team decides to build this new Japanese input system in the form of funky eye wear (Google glasses for the 19th century)!  Now you can type Japanese wherever you are simply by blinking your eyes.

See that?  What else did you notice?

The real scoop is, while users of Gmail in the US were greeted with the total ‘blue’ screen prank on April Fools’ Day, Google Japan made an elaborate effort to produce this video prank instead. What is interesting is that many people failed to discern the joke.

We showed this video to our colleagues in Japan, many whom are professors of Information Technology and Business. Here is what they said, which also resembles the comments of many Japanese Youtube viewers:

“It is an interesting concept, but I found it difficult to understand.”
“It looks hard to use for me, but young people like this?”
“The initial drum concept looked interesting; it is too bad that the final product departed from it.”
“Who is the wholesaler of this product? Can I get in touch?”

People did not get the joke, perhaps, because even today real life product development often resembles what the Google team portrayed in the video. That is, a team of experts gathers in a meeting room, discusses product ideas out of thin air, brainstorms design issues with each other, and eventually (hopefully) someone has a lucky break for a final product idea that might reflect solutions to the engineering problems at hand, but pay little regard to customer gemba and their real needs.

Without knowledge of customer-centric approaches like QFD and practical experience of how to implement the DFCV (design for customer value) such as gemba tools and maximum value table in Blitz QFD®, the product development in this April Fools’ video came across to many as a rather reasonable, realistic way that many businesses still conduct product development. I hope yours is different.

Learn better ways of product development… QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course

24 March 2013

How to calculate customer value

Value to a customer = what he gets / what he gives.
image - customer valueWe make a sale when this number is >1. Both the numerator and denominator are in the customer's domain; they determine what they get — benefit, and what they pay — price, effort to use, risk of change.

The problem with many quality methods is that they focus on what companies give — product and features, and not on what customers get — value and benefit.

That is why QFD is an essential tool. It is the best method I know that can link together the customer benefit and the product features, thus assuring that developers focus first and best where it matters most to the customer.

The trick is to understand what your customers want to get and what they will pay BEFORE you design. That way you don't have to keep fixing things later. Traditional House of Quality assumes you have complete and accurate customer needs. My 27 years of QFD experience tells me otherwise. You must go deeper than what customers tell you if you want a competitive advantage. This is what the modern Blitz QFD® tools do.

The 2013 International QFD Symposium (ISQFD) will be held in Santa Fe this September. Come meet Dr. Akao (QFD founder) and learn these new Blitz tools.

19 March 2013

What does Akao say? Mu!

A recent poll on the LinkedIn group Lean Six Sigma Worldwide asked:

"Which Lean Six Sigma waste reduction (Muda, Mura, Muri) is the most effective way to increase profitability?"

Quality professionals know the first three Mu as three Japanese words: Muda meaning waste, Muri meaning strain, and Mura meaning discrepancy.

I'd like to add a 4th Mu to the list – Muchakucha ムチャクチャ meaning horrendous, reckless, confused and messy, and mad. In other words, don't blindly follow what others do.

There has been much discussion in the lean and six sigma communities that, like TQM a few years ago, these quality initiatives have become too vanilla flavored and over hyped to the point of diminishing returns. This is the result of failing to custom tailor the tools and training to the cultural DNA of the organization.

Our QFD community faced this problem early on when House of Quality (the tool) became synonymous with QFD (the process). Companies in every industry copied the truncated 4-house auto parts model, became overwhelmed by its simultaneous complexity (takes too much time) and simplicity (doesn't address my problem), and quickly burned out. By the mid-1990s, Dr. Yoji Akao was sufficiently worried that QFD would be abandoned, and he asked the QFD Institute to find a way to make QFD more adaptable and faster.

The result was the Blitz QFD® approach which now precedes and can sometimes replace the House of Quality and subsequent matrices. It is highly scalable and adaptable, and is the core of what we now teach in the QFD Green Belt® and QFD Black Belt® courses.

Now, specifically to the LinkedIn poll question: Profit is the difference between revenue and cost. The Lean and six sigma community focus on the cost side – remove waste, improve productivity. There is a limit, though, on cost reduction. Theoretically, once you reach zero cost, where can you go?

QFD, on the other hand, focuses on the revenue side. If we can provide more value to customers by helping them solve their problems, enable their opportunities, and improve their image, then more customers will pay more money for the product or service.  The limit is the size of the global market. Smart customers (the ones you want) won't mind paying 99 cents for one dollar of benefit.

13 March 2013

Siri — Far out and far off!

A hilarious thing happened when I was in Orlando, Florida earlier this month, giving the QFD Green  Belt® Course.

photo: Apple iPhone Siri telling me to drive 2,500 miles to California when Disney is only 5 miles away from our Orlando FL hotel.
One evening after a day of teaching, some of us decided to go to dinner in Downtown Disney, a popular shopping, dining, and entertainment area located just over 5 miles (8-9 km) from where we were.

Sitting in the rental car in the hotel parking lot, I turned to Siri on my Apple iPhone and asked for the driving directions. I had driven to Downtown Disney two days before, so it should not be a new location to Siri.

What happened next was totally unexpected and perplexing, to say the least. Siri, with her usual serious tone, mapped out a 36-hour drive to Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, over 2,500 miles (4023 km) away from Orlando, Florida . All passengers in the car burst out laughing.

We gave Siri several more chances to correct herself, specifying “Orlando, Florida,” but each time Siri came back with the same response, generating the driving map across the entire continental America. (the photo above)

04 March 2013

DFSS / DFLS and QFD: Why we need both

A recent QFD newsletter discussed the similarities and differences of DFSS/DFLS and QFD and why it is not an "either-or" question but that we need both to deliver business success.

(illustration - dfss/dfls vs qfd)
This is because the focus of DFSS (design for six sigma) and DFLS (design for lean sigma) is our internal products and processes, whereas the focus of QFD (quality function deployment) is our customers. The differences between the sigma approaches and QFD are especially notable in these areas:
  • Focus
  • Customer understanding
  • VOC (voice of customer) analysis
  • CRM (customer requirements management) and priority
  • Solutions identification and delivery
  • Design, Development, and Commercialization
  • Math

In short, QFD provides a holistic approach that links business, customer, and technology in one end-to-end trackable flow with the goal of customer value — DFCV (design for customer value). QFD uses quantitative and non-quantitative tools to analyze the unknown unknowns, information that leads to sustainable competitiveness.

(illustration: QFD + DFSS/DFLS = Happy Customer)DFSS provides a powerful set of statistical and analytic tools that can improve the efficiencies and effectiveness during the build of new products. QFD provides the umbrella of customer value as the driver and DFSS kicks in downstream to assure that solutions are optimally developed. We need both together in order to deliver customer satisfaction and business success.

Here is the detailed comparison of the sigma and QFD approaches and the reasons why we must use both: "DFSS/DFLS and QFD"

21 February 2013

I get my kicks from Champlain

Samuel de Champlain is my nomination for Mr. Gemba.

I enjoyed immensely reading David Hackett Fischer's biography of the father on New France called Champlain's Dream (Simon & Schuster, 2008).  Like many of us in modern organizations, Champlain started out with a dream, had little if not negative "management" backing, did his exploration the right way, and changed his corner of the world forever.

Champlain's Dream
Let me put this in a QFD context.

Business Goals: converts Native Americans to Catholicism (as measured by # souls), create wealth for France (as measured in livers – French currency at the time), compete with English and Dutch (as measured by # ports, colonies).

Key Stakeholders: 3 successions of King Henri IV, Queen Regent Marie de Medici, and Louis XIII and their administrations. Financial backers including Compagnie de Caen and Hundred Associates.

Key Customers: various tribes of Native Americans on the St. Lawrence River, French traders, Colonists, Catholic Church clergy.

Customer Process Models: Champlain joined many tabagie (smoking festivals and meetings) with Native Americans to learn about their lives, their joys, and their struggles.

Gemba: After the "interview" research of the tabagie, Champlain then explored the St. Lawrence gemba. They joined hunts for food, parties of war, lived in their villages, ate their food, stayed on through the winter seasons (in the early 1600s, most Europeans were fair-weather visitors to North America). He did youth "student" exchanges to learn their languages and customs, etc. This is real gemba.

Customer Needs:

    About the Native Americans, Champlain learned:
  • Help feed our families (many St. Lawrence tribes were hunters and gatherers, did not store food, and suffered terribly with disease and starvation during some winters).
  • Protect us from our enemies (both Indian and European).
  • Help us live in peace.
    About Colonists:
  • I want to serve my King.
  • I want to become a land owner (almost impossible for non-nobility in France).
  • I want a place to retire with my family.
  • I want a great adventure.
  • I want to get out of debtors prison.
    About Clergy:
  • Establish the Church in North America.
  • Create a rule of law and faith (not just revenge).
  • Free to do missionary work.
    About French traders:
  • I want to trade with everyone.
  • I want to fish anywhere.
  • I want to make a lot of money.

Functional Requirements: respect for Native American cultures, no retribution, assure adequate food and nutrition, establish rule of law based on just solutions for all parties, build trust by keeping promises, religious tolerance, make colonies self-sustaining, encourage intermarriage.

The result was a mastery of exploration, cartography, co-habitation of peoples for mutual benefit, and a tremendous leadership style that got it "right" most of the time. This came from Champlain's non-judgmental willingness to learn, appreciate diversity, and explore beyond his comfort zone. In that era, it was the French who recognized the humanity of Native Americans, while the Spanish were enslaving them and the British were pushing them off their land.

Champlain's life is an example of how to do gemba right.

17 February 2013

Now’s the time!

It’s that time of the year again, when we begin the call for papers for this year’s QFD Symposium.

This year’s will be an International Symposium, taking place September 6–7 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It’s a great time to meet your peers of QFD as well as greet some of the gurus of quality excellence.

As usual, there will be classes, discussions and demonstrations, and we’re looking for contributors who would like to show others how they’ve successfully applied QFD to their own professional (or personal) projects.

If you have a project or paper, completed or in-progress, you’d like to share, please send an abstract now.

(photo from Symposium on QFD)

09 February 2013

Healthcare optimization and its effects on patients

This came from someone who read our recent post on healthcare improvement:

I would like to talk about a recent experience I had at a doctor’s office. Given my medical history, the experience might not be relatable to everyone but I think it highlights an important problem in the area of medical process improvement, where offices are adopting new Standard Operating Procedures to streamline patient visits, as a local improvement without seeing the big picture or global improvement.

(photo of an eye clinic)

To start, it’s important to note that I have a long history with eye doctors and have spent my whole life in the same medical system and hospital, and I have a medical record that could rival Proust’s In Search of Lost Time as a blunt weapon.  Like any experienced patient, I know the procedure for checkups and I know how my eyes should test.

On this visit, I made it quickly from the waiting room to the exam room (an area this hospital has made incredible strides in over the past twenty years) and soon my exam was underway.  The technician measured my eyesight with a multi-line letter chart and then took my eye pressure using a Tono-pen.  Both of my readings were off.

The multi-line letter chart helps prevent cheating through memorization but it makes it much harder to focus on any one line.  Tono-pens are used because they save time over traditional Goldmann tonometers (the little blue cones they press into your eyeball) but they are both less accurate and less precise. We’ll get back to the time savings in a minute.

My vision was measured at 20/30, acceptable for many people and good for others. But with my glasses, 20/15 is the norm and 20/20 is what I have on an off-day when I’m tired.  It’s not a big delta though and it can vary with things as simple as room dryness or the cleanliness of my glasses, so I was a bit annoyed with the result but not yet concerned. Then came the Tono-pen.
Tono-pens are a small handheld device for measuring intraocular pressure and they’re a godsend for measuring small children and patients who can’t sit still.  Unfortunately, I’m not one of them and given my eyes’ history, I have a very precise range of what my eye pressures should be. This particular visit, the pressure in both eyes was abnormally high by more than five; the right eye’s being nearly double its normal value and a possible signal that something might be wrong.  The technician’s response was to move me back into a waiting room while my eyes dilated, and advance to her next patient.

All of this was done in a matter of minutes and her efficiency was through the roof!  By basic metrics, she did her job swiftly and followed exact protocol for processing patients.  After all, it’s not her fault my eyes had subpar measurements; the doctor would just have to treat it.

When my doctor arrived, she began a more thorough investigation of my eyes. Her conclusion was that everything looked great.  All of the parts in every sector had maintained their shape and size from the last visit, and there wasn’t a hint of inflammation.  Still slightly worried about the high pressures, I asked if she could re-measure them and she obliged, this time using the gold standard Goldmann tonometer (photo below). This time, everything was normal.

(photo of Goldmann tonometer, photo by Jason Ruck, Creative Commons)

The point of this writing is not to call attention to a single technician, because she did exactly as she was trained.  It is rather to show what generic service can miss and how it could be better.

Upon seeing and hearing that my eye pressures were out of line, the technician should’ve conducted a second test, possibly using the more accurate and precise equipment, and compared it to my historical figures. The problem with this is that it would’ve cost her time, and being in a low level position, she doesn’t have the clout to shrug off time requirements and quotas.

Now why is it a problem if everyone in a medical office tries to work as quickly as possible? 

Mistakes and malpractice aside, it misses the big picture.  The primary bottleneck in a doctor’s office is the doctor herself.  They are in least supply, have the busiest schedules and are almost always the reason you’re processed in a timely or slow manner; the rest of the system adjusts around them.

In this case, spending an extra three to five minutes during the technician’s stage would not have delayed my consultation or departure at all, since I still had to wait another 5+ minutes for my eyes to dilate and another 5+ after that for the doctor to become available.  The same goes for the next patient she had to visit.  If the doctor can only see 5 patients per hour and technicians prepare 10 patients per hour, the clinic will still only fully process 5 patients per hour.  The system can move no faster than the slowest link.

So not only did the time saving measures before the doctor’s stage provide no temporal benefits but in the end, the less precise device actually cost the clinic time it was meant to save.  You see, the doctor spent additional time conducting a re-measurement of my eye pressure that actually could’ve taken place twenty minutes prior when there was a buffer zone.  Reducing time during the technician’s stage meant overloading the doctor’s stage and the end result was an increase in the total time for processing.  As you can imagine, this sort of thing gets compounded with every patient.

In the late Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, it was recommended improvements to throughput must come by way of removing all unnecessary loads from the bottleneck. At a clinic, this means that anything that can be done by a technician should be done with the precision and accuracy that a doctor requires so that they do not have to repeat testing. By increasing the attention to detail of technicians, it may be possible to reduce the overall load on the doctor, thus speeding up the entire system.  This could add up to significant savings, especially in these times of concern for reducing healthcare costs for both hospitals and patients.

01 February 2013

What ever happened to customer service?

It seems these days that customer service has gone to the dogs. It used to be we gave our best customers our best service, especially in this service economy! Here are some of my recent experiences.

(photo of restaurant check holder)
Case #1
At a national chain restaurant
, the guest check holder (the leatherette bill holder the waitperson brings to your table) was redesigned. Instead of the conventional, little clear plastic pocket that was the perfect size to hold a credit card, their new design has a simple slit that is cut directly on the holder lining.
    Because there is no pocket seam to hold the card securely in place anymore, once you insert the credit card into the slit, gravity works to slip right down to the bottom of the 10" deep holder, unbeknown to the customer.

    When my waitress brought my credit card slip to sign, the card was nowhere to be seen. After a frantic search of the floor around the table, the card was found stuck inside the lining of the folder where it had slipped down to the bottom. It had a friend, too – another card lost by a previous guest over one week prior! The waitperson's response – "Oh that happens all the time." Well, if it happened more than once, why didn't they fix the problem?

    Case #2
    The new US healthcare laws require that children over 26 have their own health insurance. After transferring our son to his own insurance plan, he enrolled in automatic-pay from the bank account. The first monthly payment was deducted properly, but not the second. After several long phone calls, it turns out the second payment was deducted from someone else's bank in error. How could that be, since it's all done by computer, right?

    In fixing the problem, the insurance company not only removed the incorrect payment for the current month, but they also removed the correct payment for the previous month, meaning my son was now in arrears and at risk of losing his new insurance, even though we had followed all correct steps to transfer and set up automatic payment.

    Furthermore, their customer service representative just reported his account now shows "paid" for the next five months, even though he has not paid past the current month.

    Case #3
    (photo of smart phone roaming)
    "Global roaming" on a mobile phone is essential when traveling overseas. I recently had to activate the plan that gives me a discount on data when traveling abroad, which is important for a smart phone. Well, this took several calls with conflicting information from the various agents at my mobile service provider. One person said it was not necessary, another said it could be done now and I would be all set. A third person actually took me through the steps to change my iPhone settings so it would work. Had this third person not explained the setup to me, the phone would not have worked.

      I'm sure you must have some stories yourself. Why not share them with us?

      If you run a service or support operation, learn how to understand what your customers really want. It will earn you customer loyalty and save you money from multiple mis-handlings by your staff.

      To learn new QFD tools for this, I recommend attending the QFD Green Belt® course. I will be teaching the Orlando course on Feb. 28 - March 1, 2013. You will learn how to apply QFD correctly and most efficiently from the first time.

      The course includes Excel templates which is an economical alternative to buying commercial software that is most likely based on outdated methods. The course has no prerequisites.


      24 January 2013

      “Did you find everything okay?”

      It’s a question consumers hear on a daily basis, whether they’re at a grocery store, electronics store, sporting goods store or basically any kind of retail outlet.  Sometimes our answer is ‘yes’ and other times ‘no,’ but what never seems to change is the outcome from this little encounter.  Anyone reading this blog probably already understands why – because it’s not a service question, it’s a marketing statement.

      (photo - cashier and customer "Did you find everything okay?")Much like “Welcome!” from greeters at many mega stores, this simple line is meant to project a customer-first attitude amongst a store’s employees (and at no additional cost!,) however, unlike a throwaway greeting, this question represents a much greater missed opportunity.

      It is not that the asker (often a cashier) is disingenuous when asking this question, but rather the question itself is problematic and their training does not enable them to deal with the voices of customers they receive.  It is an avenue for feedback, but it almost always leads to a dead end.

      The most immediate problem with this question is that it’s vague and open to multiple interpretations by different customers.  One of the main principles of asking good questions is making sure the respondent actually knows what’s being asked.

      The first possibility that springs to my mind is, “Was the process of finding specific product groups and making selections easily accomplished?” This can be broken down in at least three ways as follows:
      • “Was our inventory organization logical to you?” 
      • “Was our inventory accessible to you?”  and 
      • “Did we provide enough information to help you decide?”  
      There are likely more ways to break down the process of shopping, but it’s worth noting that an online store like Amazon, which has begun to enter the grocery business in some cities, can easily meet these needs without much extra effort through their existing online interface.  This makes it all the more important for today’s brick and mortar grocery stories to satisfy in these areas.

      Another way to interpret the question is, “Do we carry the specific items you’re looking for?”  – either by item type or item brand. This is an issue of supply management and no amount of friendly customer service is going to help the customer get what they want on that current trip.

      There might, however, be an easy and visible method for customer requisitions, which would not only please a customer but also guarantee a return visit when their item arrives.  This is often possible at electronics stores (although the process is far from visible or easy) but is rarely possible in grocery stores.  When a customer’s favorite brand of mustard or bread goes missing and they ask an employee why they no longer carry that item, they’re often met with an “I don’t know” which is neither helpful nor informative. The excruciating weakness of that response is that it could be!

      Even when store representatives ask meaningful questions and their customers provide informative answers, they’re rarely trained with the necessary tools or provided a response channel to turn that voice of customer into helpful information.

      Every time the question is asked, a store is in position to receive useful feedback, both positive and negative, yet that information goes nowhere; it gets stuck with a clerk who doesn’t know who to give it to or a manager who doesn’t want to receive it. “Did you find everything okay?” is a façade of customer-first thinking, and fortunately there’re ways to improve it.

      An easy start is to ask better questions, and to make sure your representatives know how to respond when the customer's answer is “no.”  A working response channel from customer to representative to management is important, however this is dependent on a customer’s time, mood and memory and may lead to skewed results.

      For instance, feedback on message boards tends to occur more when something has gone wrong, rather than when something has gone right.  Questionnaires sent out by grocery stores tend to be focused on their own product or process rather than the customer’s experience (or their desired shopping outcome), and by the time customers receive them, they may not remember all of the relevant details from their shopping encounter.  Furthermore, even if a customer did have difficulty searching through a store’s shelves and a cashier was able to help them, what good would it do if the customer had already waited in line and was about to pay (as they often are when the question is asked)?

      For these reasons, going to the gemba is the most effective way to find customers’ needs in order to improve their shopping experience.  True customer-first thinking means discovering if they “found everything okay” (and everything it entails) before they check out of your store.

      Ken Mazur

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